Miami, 1954– Bettie Page, Kathleen Stanley, and Bunny Yeager. Photographer Bunny Yeager was assigned to do some catalog photos of a line of petticoats and one of the models didn’t show up. Bunny jumped in, taking off her clothes and putting on a petticoat, and took this shot using a self-timer on her camera.
Bunny Yeager knew from an early age that her life’s desire was to be a model, and set out by studying the “come hither” poses of classic painted pin-up art, and snipping pictures of sexy screen sirens Betty Grable, Jane Russell, Rita Hayworth, etc., that were hoarded away in her growing collection of scrapbooks. Right after high school Bunny Yeager made it official. “I took a modeling course from an agency with the finest reputation in Miami,” she recalled.
The iconic Playboy Bunny is a symbol of the fabulous swinging era of the ’60s & ’70s that Hugh Hefner honed to a razor sharp point in the form of a fuzzy cotton tail that adorned the hostess Bunnies in his famous (or infamous) Playboy clubs that cropped-up around the world. From the pages of the Ex Playboy Bunnies Website (with its trove of photos, btw) is an official hand-typed “The Playboy Club Bunny Manual” which strictly dictates the duties, demeanor, and personal presentation expected of Playboy Bunnies at all times. They were not messing around– this was a buttoned-up operation (on paper at least) that was focused on keeping the Playboy mystique and allure alive– and the Playboy Bunnies were definitely the faces and tails of the Playboy brand.
Keith Richards (background, upper right…) and the Rolling Stones paying a visit to the Playboy Club.
The original Playboy Bunnies proudly showing their most precious and proudest asset– their iconic bunny tail. The bunnies had to keep their tails cleaned, brushed, perfumed, and impeccable at all times.
How unlikely would it seem today, if someone were to tell you that they were planning to build one of the world’s sexiest and most recognizable brands– with a logo based on a bunny? Well, that’s exactly what Hugh Heffner did. Seriously, doesn’t it sound kind of nuts? Looking back on the vintage images of the bunnies in their heyday, there is an undeniable naivete and corniness, mixed with an overtly demeaning attitude towards women– and wow, did it work.
Heffner was gifted with an ironic stroke of fate when the original “Stag Club” name that was going to grace his new men’s magazine was legally blocked by Stag magazine. He needed a new handle, and the stag was soon converted to the now iconic bunny, in a historic and innuendo-laden rename. Playboy later ran a pictorial article on Chicago’s Gaslight Club, and was overwhelmed by thousands of readers requesting to join this exclusive key members club. Playboy execs smelled a golden opportunity, and soon plans were laid to open their own private key holder’s club. All that was needed now was the vision.
After many go-rounds, the decided-upon bunny custom was nipped and fluffed until it met Heffner’s critical approval. They say he was particularly smitten with the tail– go figure. In 1960, when the very first Playboy Club opened– the so-called icon of the sexual revolution was off and hopping. Seems almost more like a misogynist’s ___ dream than a liberating sexual revolution if you asked me.
Liberating for whom, exactly?
Unwilling to lose time in litigation for the “Stag Party” name, Hugh Hefner renamed his magazine “PLAYBOY” and chose a new symbol. Arv Miller transformed his original stag mascot to a rabbit. Founding Art Director Arthur (Art) Paul then created the world-famous Rabbit Head logo.
1960, Hugh Hefner and Playboy Bunnies at the Chicago Playboy Club.